How to Ferment Herbs

Garden herbs
Garden herbs (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The purpose of fermenting herbs is to preserve them for consumption and retain nutritional values. Fermentation increases the vitamin and mineral content by removing the toxins. Fermented herbs are helpful aids in digestion problems and improvements to the immune system, strengthening the body’s protection against disease. In nature fermentation is natural process that breaks down the physical form, changing the structure and content value. Herbs like teas use a drying and heating process for fermentation.

Things You'll Need

  • Herbs
  • Dehydrator
  • Sunlight
  • Heat
  • Steamer
  • Gloves
  • Hand roller
  • 2 Containers

Natual fermentation of herbs

Pick the herbs with stems attached and wash them. Shake the excess water from the herbs and remove the lower leaves from the stems. Place the herbs into a dehydrator to dry using a very low setting. Dry to a crisp texture, not a crumble state.

Purchase a electrical dehydrator or make a solar drying box. In dry weather, you can tie the herbs together, hang them in direct sunlight for a few days to dry.

As leaves start to wilt oxidation begins changing the herb enzymes, removing the excess water from the leaves naturally.

Wearing gloves, gather the leaves in your palms and roll to squeeze the oils out. Stop when the scent fills the air. Rolling causes the chlorophyll to break down and the green pigment begins to fade and change to a darker one. Rolling aids in speeding up the chemical reaction for breaking down leaf proteins.

Continue to dry the leaves in an oxygen and controlled temperature environment until the leaves reach a selected color. Stop the fermentation when the leaves reach; lighter colors for original flavor 5-40% oxidation, semi colored for more subtle aromas 60-70% and darkest in color about 80-100% for heavier aromas.

Trial and error takes place in this step, since over oxidation or fermentation can cause the flavors and tastes to change unfavorably.

Heating the leaves using natural sunlight, pan frying or steaming. Heat stops the fermentation process at the desired color level and destroys any fermentation enzymes from the leaves. Heating adds dampness to the leaves and they need to be rolled to remove the liquid. There are commercial rollers or a hand roller works just as well. Once the leaves are rolled, allow the leaves to dry completely in the sun or air dry again.

As a natural plant without preservatives, herbs should be stored away from external influences such as light, sun, air, refrigeration, freezer and strong food odors. Store them in an airtight container and placed in a cool and dry spot. Exposure to external environments cause the flavors to fade away. If you process a large batch, use a smaller container for everyday use and keep the bulk in the larger container.

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